Saturday, June 30, 2012

From Superman to Madagascar

Sam and Pete both have good behavior charts tapped to the wall in the play room. They are set up kind of like a board game. Think Candyland or Chutes and Ladders. A winding path leads to a prize. Earn all your stars by having good bedtimes, eating all your dinner, sharing, and not screaming (kind of hard to reward, but it's on there, nonetheless).

This is their second go-around with the good behavior charts. The first time through--which they both navigated successfully--they earned a toy. The first Saturday afternoon I got back from Rio, Elise and I announced that we were taking Sam and Pete to a special surprise place. They couldn't guess where we were going. Pete kept guessing we were going to play the "driving games" (HotZone in ParkShopping, the giant arcade). The whole way to shopping center, Elise and I kept them guessing, "I wonder where we could be going?"

We ended up at the toy store, much to their shared delight, to pick out the toy they had earned by completing their good behavior charts. We went up and down the aisles a few times, debating whether or not it should be a Thomas the Train toy, or a Hot Wheels toy, a Lego or an Imaginex toy. That's when I started to have sticker shock. I didn't remember the toys being so expensive the last time we had come to the toy store. A Lego construction set was 500 Brazilian reais, about $250 USD for a toy that would cost $39.99 at Toys R Us.

I thought for sure I was effed. There was no way I was getting out of this one. Especially, after I had built it up, at home, on the drive over, even as we walked through the mall. I gently and carefully attempted to walk back my previous commitment. We came to the toy store to pick out a toy that we were going to buy later on the internet, I explained to Sam, who immediately burst into tears. I felt terrible. I tried to mollify him by promising to buy him two toys on the internet. After a little more crying and a little more explanation and the promise that we would go directly home (after stopping for ice cream at Girrafa's), get on the internet and order our toy. (We did this successfully only to find out the following Monday that the DPO service to Brazil had been reduced from 500 kilos a delivery to 50 kilos a delivery. In other words, it may take a month for the Hot Wheels race track we picked out to get here. In the meantime, Sam and Pete will race down the driveway and meet me at the car as I pull in from work EVERYDAY to ask if any packages came. They did this before they were expecting a super cool crash n smash Hot Wheel race track in the mail!)

Now that we are on our second good behavior chart, we are also on the way to our second reward, a movie. But not just any kind of movie. A movie in the movie theater. Sam and Pete have never been. Everytime we mention it, Pete immediately starts chanting, "Coc'corn! Candy!" as if seeing the movie were entirely secondary to completley pigging out on junk food. They both want to see 'Madagascar 3', which just recently came out, both being huge fans of the original 'Madagascar'.

It reminds me of the first movie I ever saw in a movie theater, 'Superman'. 

The year was 1978. I was six. My dad took me to go see it at the Twin City Mall which has long since been demolished and replaced by a shining new Publix. I remember, too, going to the Twin City Mall much later when the only stores left were a book store (this was before the days of Barnes and Noble and, even, Waldenbooks) and an Orange Julius. And I also distinctly remember if it was really possible to stop and reverse the march of time by reversing the spin of the Earth.

I mention this because Sam is almost five, and it is neat for me to think that he may be now forming memories he will have for the rest of his life (or at least until he is forty.)

Friday, June 29, 2012

What's in a (nick) name?

We are a little goofy around here. No surprise if you've read this blog for a while. Sam had a million and one nicknames, none of which sounded like Sam, he is still called "Bubula" by Paul, which happens to be a Yiddish word traditionally used by grandmothers when referring to their children. Clearly we spent too much time in South Florida. I still call him "Puppy" from time-to-time because Paul thinks I want him to be a gay hairdresser, which I obviously do. And Peter still remains "Foosa," which we snagged from the first Madagascar movie when he was just a tiny baby, ala "The Foosa are attacking!"

So maybe you've all been wondering what we call Clementine? After all it is the first question we get, "What will you call her." As if a beautiful name like Clementine, needed something to be called. I digress, and to be fair, though, there are so many options, likely she will decide later what she'd like to be called, I vote for Clementine, obviously, but for now she is "Loo-loo-lee," among all of the others listed in my flow chart below. And to think, it only took us three months to get here, who can imagine what we'll be calling her in another three.....

In other news: Last night my baby girl slept in her own crib for the first time, while I cried myself to sleep. The aching in my chest as my heart reached out of bed feeling nothing atop her waffle sheeted, linen bassinet beside my bed, then rounded the corner into the playroom and felt it's way across the mahogany colored, Brazilian, hard wood doors, into her black, spindled crib and there she was....exactly.too.far.away.

Just as Paul had suspected, though, we both survived the night.

I wanted to keep her in the basinnete in our room forever, because this means she's growing up and everything about her arrival and her presence is romance and I don't ever want it to stop: Her conception (duh), my pregnancy with her here in Brazil, her delivery (which I am still working on translating into English, to share from deep within my heart),  her smile, her sweet peaches and cream skin, her disposition.

All of me doesn't ever want her to grow up, but half of me can't wait to see how she will blossom and change each day.

Rio+20 Days Away from my Family

No one ever said saving the planet was going to be easy. I just never imagined it would be this hard.

20 days away from my family is a conservative estimate. A month, is more like it.

Unfortunately, I have no beach pictures to share, stories of penguins washed up on shore, or sprints to Starbucks for mid-afternoon pick-me-ups. I left Rio more pale than when I arrived. Nearly impossible to do, I had thought, but I had done it.

We stayed in a beautiful apartment in Ipanema overlooking the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas. Christ the Reedemer, lit green like a giant religious Hulk for the conference, floated in mid-air out the window, occasionally obscured by thick, low-hanging clouds. Tiny motes of light, speckled in condo towers across the lake, reflected off the water, the constant stream of the big city, passing by and beneath us. I could’ve stayed there forever.

Unfortunately, duty called. I changed into my costume. Father and husband by night, saver-of-humanity in a wrinkled suit by day. I usually left the apartment before 7:00, catching a cab to Copa and a 7:30 delegation meeting, then hopping in a van for the 1 ½ hour commute to Barra da Tijuca where the UN conference was being held. Sometimes, we didn’t arrive until 10:00, depending on how many armored vehicles, riot police behind plexiglass shields, indigenous peoples, and protesters blocked our path. The entire day was spent in a mammoth convention hall, bereft of fresh air, under the neon buzz of thousands of banks of fluorescent tubing. It was incredibly ironic how much unsustainable energy was being expended to host a conference on sustainable development. Not to mention the paper trail, as I was routinely asked to print 5 copies of each of the 14 U.S. principal delegate’s schedules. The paper-less conference the UN had envisioned it was not.

By 6:00 my head was aching to leave, threatening to crack. Sometimes, I could, climbing aboard a tour bus to make the long trip back to the Zona Sul, winding along the edge of the ocean on Avenida Niermeyer, passing Rocinha and Vidigal, impossibly vertical favelas, reaching toward the sky like flat board Olympuses. In the bright orange street lights, shoeless kids did capoeira, skateboarded or kicked a soccer ball in the street. Every lane was a party, winding up into infinity under an unnavigable snafu of pirated power and telephone lines. Usually I would return to the apartment by nine, the kids asleep.

I had no idea how hard the days would be for Elise. I had told myself that if there was ever an opportunity to go out of town for work, I would want my family to come with me. I hope this remains the case after Rio, but I don’t know yet. I don’t think we will know until we have to answer that question again. When we do, Clementine won't be three months old, waking up four times and night, and Peter won't be in the dark throes of the terrible twos, up one second, down...waaaay down the next. 

My days were much longer than I anticipated. Email torrents didn’t stop until midnight and picked back up again before dawn. The night before the Secretary arrived it went on all night, a steady stream of emails filling my inbox while I tried to get a few hours of much-needed sleep. I was selfish. I wanted my family with me. I thought I could have it both ways.

I missed Elise’s birthday. I missed Father’s Day.

Elise, Sam, Peter, Clementine and I went to Rio to save the planet. We may not have saved the planet today, but, hopefully, idealistically, maybe, the small part that we played will make some sort of difference for future generations. Maybe…just maybe…a small boy in Burundi, Sam’s age with equally poofy hair, will have light to read by thanks to Secretary Clinton’s participation in the U.S.-African Clean Energy Finance Initiative launch which I helped organize (frantically typing on a note card how to pronounce the Kenyan Environment Minister’s name, Chilau Ali Mwakwere 3 minutes before her arrival). I cling to this hope in order to justify the month I was a terrible father and a terrible husband, but hopefully able to do something important.

I think I did. I guess we’ll have to wait to find out if it was all worth it.  

Monday, June 25, 2012

Rio + 20 a lot of stuff

Paul spent the past hundred years two weeks in Rio for the big Rio +20 The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. Instead of me spending two weeks at home with the tots, we decided to join him. Initially we thought we'd go for the whole time, crash in his hotel room and play at the beach all day. After a little thought and a last minute news that he'd be moved from his hotel room to corporate condo filled with a bunch of other family-less diplomats, I had him change our tickets and reduce our stay to just one week. Thankfully, friends of ours that had just moved to Rio from Brasilia happened to be out of town for the time we'd be in town and offered us their insanely well located and fabulous apartment for our stay.  

Sam has wanted to go to Rio since he was born, or at least you would have thought so by his level of excitement. Really he wanted to go having seen the movie Rio, our previous photos and having heard promises of trains and blue macaws named, well, Blue.  Peter wanted to go because he wanted to see a big airplane and because he thought that might get him the opportunity to use my Ipad. Turns out he was disappointed upon leaving the ground that he couldn't see anymore airplanes and even more disappointed when he realized that on the short flight not only I said he couldn't use the ipad on take-off and landing, but that the captain also agreed. This is not easy news to take when you are two.  His disappointment only grew when we landed and left the airport altogether for seven days. This could have, but probably wasn't the cause of his general "twoness" on our trip.  

Sam on the other hand, was overjoyed. After all, how many people dream of visiting Rio de Janeiro on a fabulous all expense paid (by your dad) beach vacation for their whole lives and get to visit there when they are four? Lifestyles of the rich and not-so famous.

Clementine slept for the entire one and a half hour flight and would like to thank the people at TAM for providing her with her very pleasant  and very first flight. You know she has a choice when she flies...Right? She chose TAM.

We took the largest cab we could score at the airport and headed to my friend's home, which (she had not lied) had the worlds most amazing view of the Corcavado. We explored the neighborhood, shopped for groceries and sent Paul off to the first of his many meetings and obligations the week would hold. Sam and I,  put Petey and Clemmie to bed and snuggled up on the couch overlooking Christ the Redeemer, while he overlooked us and talked about how (and why) they lit him up bright green at night.

The next morning, Wednesday, June 13th, my birthday, Paul set off to work at sunrise and we began to plan our day. How could a day spent with my three children, in Rio, at the beach, not be amazing? Wait for it...

So I packed up the tots, snacks, swimsuits, diapers, drinks, a whole freaking Phil and Teds caravan of baby accouterment for a successful birthday morning at the beach. Stopped to purchase baby powder (which dries the skin and releases all the sand from hands feet, right along side toddler and mother skin-on-sand-on-flip-flop-irritablity) and sand toys and arrived at the beach at exactly 8:30....or what felt like 4pm after all my preparations.

We had exactly five minutes of fun at the beach, most of which we spent: trying to figure out how to push a stroller 200 ft in the sand, unloading it, setting up the fun and taking this picture:

Then two years old happened:

and we went home. Two years old continued to happen for the rest of the day and by the time Paul got home I was ready to walk to the airport with my stroller and head home. Luckily I had the promise of my knight in shining motherhood/best friend and her family to join the insanity the next day and I stayed. You see visions of vacation with kids, are like mirages. You see it! "Oh! It is so fabulous," "It will be so fun," and then you arrive and poof! It's gone.

Until it comes back....for a minute and then leaves again. And so this is how my debut, single parenting vacation with two toddlers and a newborn went. A tiny roller coaster of highs and lows brought to you by the life of a mother-of-three, wife of a hard-working diplomat, daydreamer of perfection, photographer of it all.

And they're up!

 and they're down.

In some of our higher highs: "Miss Mogan" arrived with Sam and Pete's best friends, Phin and Simon and we all returned happily to the beach. Clementine's first ever visit to the beach, at just three months old, was not just to ANY beach, it was to one of the nicest beaches in the world, in one of the coolest cities in the world. Where do you go from there Clem? "I don't care, I just want to eat and poop and hang at the beach in Rio like Gisele."

And she did:

and he did (minus the pooping at the beach)

and they did (also without the pooping).

 but in true Hanna, post nap-style, without pants.

Miss Rio de Janeiro 2012 had the best seat in the house for sunset watching:

Friday, with backup, we were ready for adventure, and adventure we did. We boarded two taxi's (because with FIVE children in tow, you need two taxi's. FYI) and we headed for the base of the Corcovado. Where we purchased our train tickets to the top, an event (clearly) Sam and Peter had been looking forward to for months.

Clem was a little indifferent to the whole train situation.

You'd think he could have just wrapped those arms around me and covered up my fat knees, but some prayers go unanswered.

We sipped orange juice and ate crackers then reboarded the train and another cab before we tumbled into mid-morning toddler disaster...and instead right into Starbucks.

 Other highlights included the track at the athletic store that we had to walk through to get there. That was likely never intended to see the use that it did that week. Thankfully, as we've mentioned many times before, the Brazilians love kids and therefore our tiny racers were cheered on as they raced throughout the store dodging shoppers. Build and track and they will run.

The boys crashed in sleeping bags on the floor for the first time in their lives, which made me think of the times that my brother's and I had campouts in the living room as kids. I don't know how we ever got to do it a second time (MOM!) because it took nearly an hour each night to get them to stop kicking each other in the heads and wrestling to go to sleep. When they finally did, though I was eager to welcome Paul home and sit back with a glass of wine and cry (kidding...but seriously).

Once we really got into the groove of things, the beach actually became quite(ish) fun we rented chairs for R$3 and umbrellas for R$4 and had our own personal beach boys to carry our strollers to and from the boardwalk and serve us agua de coco and Globo. Thanks our friends the boys were able to enjoy the waves and the beach while we alternated sitting with and feeding the babies in the shade.

We breakfasted at what has become one of my favorite spots in Rio, where we'd grab pao de queijo and acai as we walked to the beach.

On Father's day Paul worked ALL DAY LONG. One of my goals, besides to not let the children eat me alive, was to hit up the Ipanema Hippie Fair again, to make our family's "big" Brazilian art purchase, which I did and am excited to share shortly. The kids played at the park and we finished off the night, fittingly, at the restaurant named "Gringos" where we ate sliders, pancakes, BLT's and chicken wings for dinner. Sometimes the adventurer in all of us just wants a taste of home.

On our final morning we made one last trek to the beach, one which I almost opted out of given the insanity of it all, but was glad I didn't. When I arrived with the babies post morning naps, Sam came running up to me to tell me that there was a penguin on the beach. For real. A penguin. This lady stood guard while another beach vendor located who we hoped would be a vet or animal rescue of sorts. Instead, an hour later, a "lifeguard" approached with a broken styrofoam cooler and leisurely sauntered the little exhausted penguin down the beach. We later found out that it is not uncommon for tired and confused penguins to wash up on the shores of Ipanema beach. Still for me (as I'm sure the penguin would agree) it was unreal....confusing, exhausting and warmly refreshing....the whole trip and we made it, damn it, we made it all the way to the beach in Rio. Explore on explorers.

Saturday, June 23, 2012